Nigeria: November 4, 2003


Pirates killed five 'mobile' policemen in a raid on the Nun River between Otuan and Oporoma in the southern Niger delta. The ten policemen were caught unawares while they were busy checking a passenger boat and initially waved at the gunmen, mistakenly believing they were soldiers because they wore camouflage uniforms. The pirates moved in fast on a speedboat and sprayed them with automatic weapons. The cops jumped into the river, but only half survived. Commercial boat operators promptly abandoned the route when news made the rounds that pirates were in the area.

Prior to this incident, over 30 people (including eight policeman) had been killed by Nigerian pirates in 2003. On October 24 the Bayelsa State government announced that they were fielding the "Bayelsa Volunteers", a 400-man group of volunteers complementing police efforts in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta region. In addition to combating piracy, they would help secure oil pipelines against thieves. While several vehicles had been bought for the "Bayelsa Volunteers", not a single marked boat had been sighted on the state waterways. The locals now doubt the government's intent and figure that it's political propaganda. 

Nigerian waters rank pretty high in the global scourge of piracy. At the end of October, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said that during the first nine months of 2003 there had been 344 attacks (or attempted attacks) on ships at sea, at anchor or in port were reported worldwide compared to 271 in 2002 and 253 in 2001. The IMB said "the increase in violence is of great concern," and identified Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nigeria and the Malacca Straits (between Indonesia and Malaysia) as the prime hunting grounds of modern day Blackbeards. - Adam Geibel


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